Decoy Impact


Written By: Archana Ravi

Think about you’re on the movie show. You simply purchased your ticket and now resolve to get some meals for the film. You need to purchase popcorn and there are two choices to select from: a small popcorn for R30 or a big popcorn for R90. Which one would you select? The small dimension or the big dimension? We’ve all been right here earlier than. We love popcorn, however the massive possibility is so costly, that we persist with the smaller possibility at a extra affordable value.

Now take into account this state of affairs. Think about that there are three popcorn choices as an alternative of two: A small for R30, a medium for R80, and a big for R90. Doesn’t the big possibility look a bit extra interesting now? For simply R10 extra, you’ll be able to improve from a medium to massive, so why not get the big possibility?

A research with this actual state of affairs was carried out by Nationwide Geographic and confirmed that the variety of those who selected the big popcorn elevated from 13% to 74% after including the center possibility. This research portrays the ability of the decoy impact.

What’s the decoy impact?

Choices are hardly ever made in a vacuum, and sometimes the choices given can affect our determination. On this instance, including an alternative choice (the medium-sized popcorn) had an affect on folks’s determination to purchase the big popcorn.

The decoy impact describes how including one other much less engaging possibility can change our notion of the 2 unique decisions. This phenomenon is usually referred to as the uneven dominance impact. It is because the decoy selection is asymmetrically dominated, i.e. the decoy possibility is totally inferior to the goal possibility (massive dimension popcorn) however is just partially superior to the competitor possibility (small popcorn). For the decoy impact to work, the third possibility ( in our instance the small popcorn) should be utterly undesirable, therefore altering folks’s notion of the worth of the big possibility.

How does it work?

The decoy impact is an instance of a behavioral nudge. It makes use of delicate modifications in selection availability to affect decision-making and steer us in the direction of the goal possibility. It’s unconscious, as with most nudges, so we don’t notice we’re being influenced and sometimes assume we’re making that call independently. That is what makes the decoy impact so highly effective.

Listed here are a few of the causes for why we fall prey to the decoy impact:

  1. Resolution Justification- With the introduction of a brand new possibility that’s inferior, it makes the goal possibility appear like a greater deal.

  2. Eliminates Uncertainty- The decoy can ease the method of decision-making and cut back determination paralysis. It is likely to be laborious to decide on between the small and huge sizes as a result of we’re unsure about which deal is healthier. Nevertheless, with the addition of the decoy, the uncertainty is decreased as a result of the big dimension looks as if the perfect worth for cash.

  3. Loss Aversion- As people, we’re delicate to loss and subsequently like to reduce loss. Since what is taken into account a ‘loss’ is topic to the reference level, our notion of the present decisions can change when the decoy acts because the reference level. Therefore, we’d really feel like we are going to lose out on the perfect deal if we decide something aside from the goal possibility.

Can the decoy impact enhance gross sales?

Since decision-making is lots tougher with uncertainty, giving shoppers the best nudge can ease uncertainty whereas additionally bettering gross sales. It’s important to have a transparent goal and competitor choices for the product. The decoy possibility must be inferior to the goal possibility, which nudges folks to purchase the goal product. One of many earliest research that portrayed this impact is by Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke College. He introduced his college students with three choices for a subscription to the Economist. The choices have been: $59 for a web-based subscription and $125 for each print and on-line entry. Solely 32% of the scholars picked the print and on-line entry possibility for $125. He then added a 3rd possibility which was $125 for print entry solely. Given these three choices, 84% of the scholars selected the print and on-line entry possibility for $125. Therefore including the undesirable possibility of $125 for print entry solely elevated the quantity of people that needed the web and print entry possibility. In the long run, extra folks have been prepared to pay $125 in comparison with $59 on account of a shift in perspective led to by the decoy possibility.

How can we use the decoy impact to nudge conduct in a optimistic path?

The decoy impact can be utilized in a wide range of conditions akin to eating places, colleges, and hospitals. The decoy impact might be used to nudge folks in the direction of selecting extra sustainable meals choices from menus or in cafeterias. Moreover, the decoy impact can be utilized to discourage the consumption of alcohol and even enhance curiosity in screening for most cancers. One research by Stoffel and Yang demonstrated the effectiveness of utilizing the decoy impact to extend curiosity in colorectal most cancers screening. By having a decoy possibility, extra folks selected to be screened on the goal hospital as opposed to not collaborating in screening in any respect. The general curiosity in screening elevated from 37% to 59%. Moreover, they discovered that the decoy possibility helped cut back determination nervousness whereas nonetheless encouraging respondents to be taught extra concerning the screening course of. Therefore, they may nudge folks in the direction of screening with out influencing their capacity to make an knowledgeable selection.

In conclusion, the decoy impact will be an efficient technique to nudge conduct that leads to folks selecting the goal possibility by means of the introduction of an inferior possibility. Introducing the decoy can cut back client uncertainty and capitalize on loss aversion. There are numerous functions for the decoy impact. It may be used to enhance enterprise or promote a particular product. Additionally it is used to alter current unhealthy habits subconsciously. Moreover, it may well assist nudge folks in the direction of higher choices whereas not taking away their capacity to make an knowledgeable determination. The explanation this works so nicely is that we are sometimes unaware of the components affecting our decision-making. So subsequent time you go purchase your popcorn, I hope you’ll keep in mind the decoy impact and assume: do I actually need the big popcorn or is that this a nudge?


Ariely. (2015). Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Form Our Choices. Joosr.

Stoffel, S. T., Yang, J., Vlaev, I., & von Wagner, C. (2019). Testing the decoy impact to extend curiosity in colorectal most cancers screening., 14(3), e0213668.


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